Because in the end, we die. It’s like Chekhov observed in so many of his plays: ‘in two hundred years, no one will even know we were here.
I laugh, and it’s laughter, not light, that casts out the darkness building within me, that reminds me I am still alive, even in this strange place whereeverything I’ve ever known is coming apart. I know some things—I know that I’m not alone, that I have friends, that I’m in love. I know where I came from. I know that I don’t want to die, and for me, that’s something—more than I could have said a few weeks ago.
[Robert's eulogy at his brother, Ebon C. Ingersoll's grave. Even the great orator Robert Ingersoll was choked up with tears at the memory of his beloved brother]The record of a generous life runs like a vine around the memory of our dead, and every sweet, unselfish act is now a perfumed flower.Dear Friends: I am going to do that which the dead oft promised he would do for me.The loved and loving brother, husband, father, friend, died where manhood's morning almost touches noon, and while the shadows still were falling toward the west.He had not passed on life's highway the stone that marks the highest point; but, being weary for a moment, he lay down by the wayside, and, using his burden for a pillow, fell into that dreamless sleep that kisses down his eyelids still. While yet in love with life and raptured with the world, he passed to silence and pathetic dust.Yet, after all, it may be best, just in the happiest, sunniest hour of all the voyage, while eager winds are kissing every sail, to dash against the unseen rock, and in an instant hear the billows roar above a sunken ship. For whether in mid sea or 'mong the breakers of the farther shore, a wreck at last must mark the end of each and all. And every life, no matter if its every hour is rich with love and every moment jeweled with a joy, will, at its close, become a tragedy as sad and deep and dark as can be woven of the warp and woof of mystery and death.This brave and tender man in every storm of life was oak and rock; but in the sunshine he was vine and flower. He was the friend of all heroic souls. He climbed the heights, and left all superstitions far below, while on his forehead fell the golden dawning, of the grander day.He loved the beautiful, and was with color, form, and music touched to tears. He sided with the weak, the poor, and wronged, and lovingly gave alms. With loyal heart and with the purest hands he faithfully discharged all public trusts.He was a worshipper of liberty, a friend of the oppressed. A thousand times I have heard him quote these words: 'For Justice all place a temple, and all season, summer!' He believed that happiness was the only good, reason the only torch, justice the only worship, humanity the only religion, and love the only priest. He added to the sum of human joy; and were every one to whom he did some loving service to bring a blossom to his grave, he would sleep to-night beneath a wilderness of flowers.Life is a narrow vale between the cold and barren peaks of two eternities. We strive in vain to look beyond the heights. We cry aloud, and the only answer is the echo of our wailing cry. From the voiceless lips of the unreplying dead there comes no word; but in the night of death hope sees a star and listening love can hear the rustle of a wing.He who sleeps here, when dying, mistaking the approach of death for the return of health, whispered with his latest breath, 'I am better now.' Let us believe, in spite of doubts and dogmas, of fears and tears, that these dear words are true of all the countless dead.And now, to you, who have been chosen, from among the many men he loved, to do the last sad office for the dead, we give his sacred dust.Speech cannot contain our love. There was, there is, no gentler, stronger, manlier man.
It’s easy to think that if we had a different house, different car, different job, different relationship, different city, everything would be different; that we would feel different then.The problem is, you are the main character in the story that is your life. No matter how much you alter the setting of that story, you can’t escape from yourself. There are many factors which contribute to your experience on this planet, but ultimately, you are the one creating your experience here. In order to get to the life you are here to live, you must begin by becoming the person you are here to become.
Maybe the real issue here is that we were not created to do life by ourselves. We were not given a sentence of solitary confinement and placed in a world of isolation, but from the moment we entered this human experience, it was clear there was a world waiting to be discovered, creatures which were there for our interaction. And the spark inside us often has to be spoken to, to be touched by the soul of another. It’s as if the spark is only visible through the lens of night vision, a set of goggles which only another human being can hand to us.
Last reason for reading horror: it’s a rehearsal for death. It’s a way to get ready. People say there’s nothing sure but death and taxes. But that’s not really true. There’s really only death, you know. Death is the biggie. Two hundred years from now, none of us are going to be here. We’re all going to be someplace else. Maybe a better place, maybe a worse place; it may be sort of like New Jersey, but someplace else. The same thing can be said of rabbits and mice and dogs, but we’re in a very uncomfortable position: we’re the only creatures—at least as far as we know, though it may be true of dolphins and whales and a few other mammals that have very big brains—who are able to contemplate our own end. We know it’s going to happen. The electric train goes around and around and it goes under and around the tunnels and over the scenic mountains, but in the end it always goes off the end of the table. Crash.
It’s useful to make the distinction between reports and stories. A report is above all responsible for providing the facts, without manipulation or interpretation. Stories, on the other hand, are a way that people try to make sense of their lives and their experiences in the world. The test of a good story isn’t its responsibility to the facts as much as its ability to provide a satisfying explanation of events. In a few paragraphs, the reader learns of the problem (sales and profits are down), gets a plausible explanation (the company lost its direction), and learns a lesson (don’t stray, focus on the core). There’s a neat end with a clean resolution. No threads are left hanging. Readers go away satisfied.Now, there’s nothing wrong with stories, provided we understand that’s what we have before us. More insidious, however, are stories that are dressed up to look like science. They take the form of science and claim to have the authority of science, but they miss the real rigor and logic of science. They’re better described as pseudoscience. Richard Feynman had an even more memorable phrase: Cargo Cult Science. Here’s the way Feynman described it: In the South Seas there is a cult of people. During the war they saw airplanes land with lots of materials, and they want the same thing to happen now. So they’ve arranged to make things like runways, to put fires along the sides of the runways, to make a wooden hut for a man to sit in, with two wooden pieces on his head like headphones and bars of bamboo sticking out like antennas — he’s the controller — and they wait for the airplanes to land. They’re doing everything right. The form is perfect. But it doesn’t work. No airplanes land. So I call these things Cargo Cult Science, because they follow all the apparent precepts and forms of scientific investigation, but they’re missing something essential, because the planes don’t land.That’s not to say that Cargo Cult Science doesn’t have some benefits. The folks who wait patiently by the landing strips on their tropical island, dressed up like flight controllers and wearing a pair of coconut headsets, may derive some contentment from the whole process — they may live in hope of a better future, they may enjoy having something to believe in, and they may feel closer to supernatural powers. But it’s just that — it’s a story. It’s not a good predictor of what will happen next.The business world is full of Cargo Cult Science, books and articles that claim to be rigorous scientific research but operate mainly at the level of storytelling.
Where are we going? It’s not an issue of here or there. And if you ever feel you can’t take another step, imagine how you might feel to arrive, if not wiser, a little more aware how to inhabit the middle ground between misery and joy. Trudge on. In the higher regions, where the footing is unsure, to trudge is to survive.
And now you know it’s not like that. Right? It’s more like smoking a cigarette. The first few puffs it tasted wonderful, and you don’t even think of its ever being used up. Then you begin taking it for granted. Suddenly you realize it’s nearly burned down to the end. And then’s when you’re conscious of the bitter taste.
My feeling is that an observer needs to see four hundred and fifty stars to get that feeling of infinitude, and be swept away…and I didn’t make that number up arbitrarily, that’s the number of stars that are available once you get dimmer than third magnitude. So in the city, you see a dozen stars, a handful, and it’s attractive to no one. And if there’s a hundred stars in the sky it still doesn’t do it. There’s a certain tipping point where people will look and there will be that planetarium view. And now you’re touching that ancient core, whether it’s collective memories or genetic memories, or something else form way back before we were even human…astronomer Bob Berman quoted in The End of Night
It’s not that we have to leave this life one day, it's how many things we have to leave all at once: holding hands, hotel rooms, wine, summertime, drunkenness, and the physics of falling leaves, clothing, myrrh, perfumed hair, flirting friends, two strangers' glance; the reflection of the moon, with words like, 'Soon' ... 'do you want me?' ... '...to lie enlaced' ... 'and sleep entwined' thinking ahead, with thoughts behind...?' Ô, Why!Why can’t we leave this life slowly?
It’s not that we have to quit this life one day, it’s how many things we have to quit all at once: holding hands, hotel rooms, music, the physics of falling leaves, vanilla and jasmine, poppies, smiling, anthills, the color of the sky, coffee and cashmere, literature, sparks and subway trains... If only one could leave this life slowly!
It’s like this: if you have one piece of cake, and you eat it, that’s fine.If you have two pieces of cake, you should probably share some with a friend. But maybe not. Occasionally we could all use two pieces of cake.But if you have a whole cake, and you eat *all* of it, that’s not very cool. It’s not just selfish, it’s kinda sick and unhealthy.
We may indeed die here, that's true. But we will all die anyway-is there any denying that? When you think of all the possible ways you might go, this is as fine a place as any, isn't it? I mean, to end one's life surrounded by friends, in a comfortable, dry room with plenty to read... that doesn't sound too awful, does it?""What is the advantage of fear, or the benefit of regret, or the bonus of granting misery a foothold even if death is embracing you? My old abbot used to say, 'Life is only precious if you wish it to be.' I look at it like the last bite of a wonderful meal-do you enjoy it, or does the knowledge that there is no more to follow make it so bitter that you would ruin the experience?" The monk looked around, but no one answered him. "If Maribor wishes for me to die, who am I to argue? After all, it is he who gave me life to begin with. Until he decides I am done, each day is a gift granted to me, and it would be wasted if spent poorly. Besides, for me, I've learned that the last bite is often the sweetest.
It’s funny, how for an entire lifetime we keep thinking ‘How’ will our life-partner look like, how will he be? How will he react to a particular situation? How will he get angry, and how will we love and pamper him? We have so many questions like if he will accept me the way I am? Or if I have to change for him? We all have made plans for our future, subconsciously. We don’t exactly plan out everything with a pen and paper, it’s something that happens automatically, just like an involuntary action. Whenever we are alone and our mood is good, we usually think about our life with our partner. The days and nights in his arms, and the time that we will reserve for him.But when all that turns into reality, it’s strikingly different. Everything that you thought, seems to be a joke, and life laughs at you from a distance! You are helpless and can’t do anything about it, but have to accept it the way it is. You are totally caught into a web of dilemmas and problems before you realize that this is the time you waited for, and that this is the time you dreamt about! You have to make efforts, compromises, sacrifices and you have to change yourselves too sometimes to make things work.You can never expect to get a partner exactly the way you thought or dreamt about. It’s always different in reality and it’s always tough to make both ends meet for a relationship to work, but you have to! It’s your relationship, if you won’t work for it, who else will?
And what percentage of people take up the option to die off?’ She looked at me, her glance telling me to be calm. ‘Oh, a hundred per cent, of course. Over many thousands of years, calculated by old time, of course. But yes, everyone takes the option, sooner or later.’‘So it’s just like the first time round? You always die in the end?’‘Yes, except don’t forget the quality of life here is much better. People die when they decide they’ve had enough, not before. The second time round it’s altogether more satisfying because it’s willed.’ She paused, then added, ‘As I say, we cater for what people want.’I hadn’t been blaming her. I’m not that sort. I just wanted to find out how the system worked. ‘So … even people, religious people, who come here to worship God throughout eternity … they end up throwing in the towel after a few years, hundred years, thousand years?’‘Certainly. As I said, there are still a few Old Heaveners around, but their numbers are diminishing all the time.
It’s like, it doesn't honor God to pretend like everything is OK. That’s the beauty of Jesus that so many people miss. The beauty is that he died on the cross for our sins, but also that he existed the way we exist. He understands what it’s like to lose a friend. He’s not unfamiliar with those emotions. He’s not unfamiliar with the difficulty of human life. To me that’s what makes Jesus as God beautiful. He totally understands. He went out of his way to prove to us that he understands our situation. So when he has something to say, it’s not coming from this high and lofty standpoint. It’s coming from this person who understands intricately the perils of human existence.
It’s what we’re all trying to do, right? Remember a time that was better. Re-create a moment of that memory as we let the crisp Coke bubble down our throats. Riding bikes on a summer day. Sitting on the curb and watching the streetlights come on. Playing in the sprinklers with a group of neighbor kids. We’re all trying to salvage a time when we dreamed beyond our reality and thought monsters were under our beds instead of peppering our family trees. We’re trying to harness those fleeting moments that turned our ordinary lives into something extraordinary. In the sepia haze of those memories, we are beautiful.
It’s a secondhand world we’re born into. What is novel to us is only so because we’re newborn, and what we cannot see, that has come before- what our parents have seen and been and done- are the hand-me-downs we begin to wear as swaddling clothes, even as we ourselves are naked. The flaw runs through us, implicating us in its imperfection even as it separates us, delivers us onto opposite sides of a chasm. It is both terribly beautiful and terribly sad, but it is, finally, the fault in the universe that gives birth to us all.
It’s okay to have differences, to not be like everyone else around you. It doesn’t make you weaker or less worthy than anyone else that might appear normal. It is what it is. You’re just different. At the end of the day, we all want the exact same things in life and I think Isabelle and I are living proof of that.
It's like Romeo & Juliet,' I say. 'You can't separate them. Otherwise, there would be no Shakespeare.' Silence. I decide to be more straightforward. I tell him, 'Nothing frightens me anymore. I am not even afraid to die.' Bussey's eyes, already wide open, grow even wider. My death is the last thing he needs. I have the strange feeling that there are two of me. One observes the conversation while the other does the talking. Everything is abnormal, especially this extreme calm that has taken me over. I try to explain to Bussey that if I decide to die, it will be without bitterness. I know I did everything I possibly could, so it will be respectful farewell. I will bow to life like an actor, who, having delivered his lines, bends deeply to his audience & retires. I tell Bussey that this decision has nothing to do with him, that it is entirely mine. I will choose either to live or to die, but I cannot allow myself to live in the in-between. I do not want to go through life like a ghost. 'Do you think you'll find Danny this way?' Bussey asks. My mind sifts through all available theories on the afterlife. It is as if this metaphysical question has become as real as the air we breathe. Buddhism teaches that life is an eternal cycle without beginning or end. I recall the metaphor: "Our individual lives are like waves produced from the great ocean that is the universe. The emergence of a wave is life, and its abatement is death. This rhythm repeats eternally." Finally I answer Bussey, 'No, I don't think so.' Bussey seems relieved, but I'm more panicky, because I had never thought that I could wind up alone. In my mind, whatever the odds, Danny & I were & would be together forever.
It’s funny how we think life works a certain way because of TV and movies. Most people don’t really think about how scripts are edited and how people get to practice their lines and rehearse. If one doesn’t get it right they get to redo the scene until they do. In real life what’s missing or not working only comes up when we’re going along full blast. We end up being the editors of our lives only while we’re running in real time.